Learning to program a Snapchat channel from the best brands and influencers in the business
Forget 90% of what you've learned in social media marketing. It doesn't apply to Snapchat. There are no likes, comments or hashtags. Virality is a foreign concept. So are links and URLs. The app known for ephemeral messaging and a massive Millennial audience has evolved beyond the web and beyond social media to become the first mobile media network -- with a huge emphasis on media. In this sense, Snapchat has as much in common with Time Warner and DirecTV as it does with Facebook and YouTube. It's in a class of its own.
This means we're collectively figuring out Snapchat as we go along. No one has the answer, and that creates opportunities. Brands and agencies with rigid ideas about how it's supposed to work are destined to fail. Just as we need to embrace the simplicity of the UI, we also need to be humble in approaching Snapchat as a marketing channel. The best thing we can do at this stage is to watch, test, and learn.
This has its own set of challenges because Snapchat doesn't make watching, testing, and learning easy. Not only is it difficult to find people and brands to follow, the content (a Snapchat Story) disappears on a rolling 24-hour schedule. Having combed the internet for the best influencers and brands. Having spent countless hours watching Snapchat Stories, the following are 11 different approaches (in no particular order) to building and programming a Snapchat channel:
Shonduras: Shaun McBride aka Shonduras has a long history of online marketing and community building. He's a skateboarder, snowboarder, entrepreneur, artist, and cereal lover. McBride got started early on Snapchat and did pioneering work with brands like Disney and Taco Bell. He's highly engaged with his Snapchat followers and enables them to participate in his Snapchat show. But he also has regular segments such as Theme Songs with Strangers, Free Stuff Fridays, and Seconds with Shonduras. My personal favorite is Will it Shred?, where he tries to skateboard or snowboard with random objects such as an open sign or ironing board.
Key to Success: Interaction with followers and making them part of the story
Harris Markowitz: Markowitz discovered Snapchat while working at Twitter, so he had the right context to realize how powerful this new medium could be. As one of two people on this list nominated for "Snapchatter of the Year" by the Shorty Awards, he's best known for creating stop-motion video animations with Post-it notes and stuffed animals. Though he also mixes it up with comedic sketches and Q&A sessions. Markowitz's personal success on Snapchat lead to the launch of a Snapchat-focused production company known as A Cereal Production. Markowitz recently revealed (via Snapchat, of course) that Zillow is one his charter clients.
Key to Success: Expanding the creative range of the medium through stop-motion storytelling
Amanda Cerny: The self-proclaimed "Queen of Snapchat" is also huge on Instagram, where she has nearly 4 million followers. It's difficult to know how many followers one has on Snapchat, but Cerny's audience is estimated at well north of two million. Her style is a mix of comedy sketches with fellow Snapchat, Instagram, and Vine stars including King Bach (see below) balanced with a lens into the young Hollywood lifestyle. Her general vibe is relatable-yet-charismatic-LA-actress-model, which is a rare breed. Cerny is known to partner with brands as an Instagram and Snapchat influencer. This is an essential component to any Snapchat strategy, as brands need to rely on those who have an audience in order to quickly build their own.
Key to Success: Seamlessly exporting her Instagram following and content flavor to this new medium
ROC by Ronaldo: Soccer star Cristiano Ronaldo launched his headphone brand last year with the wildly successful "Ronaldo in Disguise" viral video. While Ronaldo has more than 200 million social media followers globally, this new brand has established an impressive audience of its own. On Snapchat, ROC by Ronaldo engages its fans by asking them to send snaps of themselves. In turn, ROC shares them to its Snapchat Story. The result is a stream of Ronaldo fan love from every corner of the planet. ROC is a truly global brand with a global audience that's engaging through a global platform.
Key to Success: The backing of an international superstar and integral involvement of the brand's Snapchat following
Justin Kan: Kan is a partner in the Valley's hottest incubator, Y Combinator. He was previously co-founder of Justin.tv (the original lifestreaming service), which pivoted to become Twitch.tv and sold to Amazon for close to $1 billion. His Snapchat Story is a constant stream of his life, which plays out like a reality TV version of the HBO show, Silicon Valley. He offers a ton of free advice to entrepreneurs and does regular Q&A sessions from his stationary bike. But you also get to experience the charmed life of a hugely successful and well-connected tech entrepreneur.
Key to Success: Being real and raw, while mixing up the subject matter to maintain the audience's attention.
GaryVee: A vocal critic of the Snapchat Story upon launch, Gary Vaynerchuk has since embraced it, saying that the feature helped the platform establish dominance by creating its "own language and context." As CEO of VaynerMedia and a well respected authority in social media, Gary V. provides consistent value to his audience by imparting advice, giving insight into his daily hustle, and offering a behind-the-scenes peek at life in a rapidly growing digital agency. Gary is a big fan of the "Snapchat takeover" method, where a follower privately snaps their login credentials to Gary so he can "guest post" to their Story. This innovative approach effectively boosts his voice by jumping on fans' accounts and offering nuggets of wisdom to new audiences.
Key to Success: Putting in the extra work to side-step platform limitations, in the process building lifetime value with a critical demo
Coca-Cola: With many brands still dipping their toes into Snapchat, there are a few that understand the keys to compelling brand programming: personality and exclusive access. The Snapchat medium demands a voice. It's not just text, photos, and overly scripted scenes. And the real-time nature lends itself to high-profile events like the Final Four, where sponsors have unique access. These essential components to branded Snapchat programming are as simple as finding a relatable voice to provide an authentic POV and leveraging brand access to offer exclusive peeks into a VIP lifestyle. Coke's recent use of influencer Tristan Tales has provided a fun and witty voice that leverages the power and universal awareness of the Coca-Cola brand.
Key to Success: Leveraging brand access to events with noted influencers, providing an authentic POV that resonates as authentic with followers
King Bach: As the most-followed star on Vine with a staggering 15.4 million followers, King Bach has honed and perfected a comedic tone that translates perfectly to a Snapchat channel. Offering fans a view into his LA lifestyle, including frequent hangouts with other major Vine stars turned Snapchat personalities including Brittany Furlan and Amanda Cerny, Bach provides consistently funny content, making him a comedic force on Snapchat with no equal. As users follow more and more people and brands, the Story feed ultimately gets pretty noisy. Bach's content is compelling enough to rise above and generate consistent views.
Key to Success: Staying true to his voice, finding compelling ways to get multiple influencers together while offering insight into the real-life friends of the next generation of super stars
DJ Khaled: If you've heard the phrases "We The Best, Major Key, New Deal Alert, Bless Up" or countless other similar sound bites in the past six months, there is a good chance they gained mainstream popularity from DJ Khaled's surreal Snapchat. Finding a way to utilize his existing starpower to exponentially grow his voice, Khaled has built a following of many millions, turning his Snapchat story into a breeding ground for new IP in the process. In the past six months alone, Khaled has announced a dizzying array of endorsement deals, a new record contract with Epic, a forthcoming "Major Key" album, and full "We The Best" lifestyle merchandise, all resulting from his platform dominance.
Key to Success: Understanding the power of his voice, Khaled has wasted no time in making Snapchat an instrumental part of his daily life and is building an empire from it's fast rising success
Burton Snowboards: If you're a snowboarder or just like to follow the sport, Burton is doing pioneering work on Snapchat in the snow sports world. The channel is hosted by former Burton pro rider Jack Mitrani, aka Jack-of-all-trades. He travels to major snowboarding events and competitions, providing back-stage access to the scene and the brand's unique POV. To build its audience, Burton ran a giveaway that prompted fans to Snap a photo of their Burton board. A few lucky winners received a Burton gear package, and it was cross-promoted on Instagram.
Key to Success: Casting an authentic and charismatic personality to host the brand's channel and connect with this key customer segment
Max Gladwell: My personal Snapchat channel, under the Max Gladwell brand, focuses on the intersection of entrepreneurship and adventure sports. From a weekly startup advice segment to a family ski vacation to Deer Valley, Utah; reviews of new gadgets and adventure gear; the POV from daily bike rides around the Santa Monica Mountains, and a weekly fitness science segment, my goal is to maintain consistency in programming while offering an authentic perspective and a variety of spontaneous moments with friends, colleagues, and family.